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Shining the light on Paresh Maity’s oeuvre

The artist’s largest show yet spans a time frame from the 1990s to his most recent creations, and highlights his strength in diverse mediums

'Illumination', watercolour on paper, Paresh Maity. Courtesy: Art Musings
'Illumination', watercolour on paper, Paresh Maity. Courtesy: Art Musings

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The idea of scale in Paresh Maity’s works has always been fascinating. He manages to evoke the colours and mysticism of Varanasi’s ghats just as beautifully in an 8-inch painting as in a 45-feet one. At the Bikaner House, you could experience that sense of vastness and magnitude across different scales and formats as part of the artist’s largest exhibition yet, titled Infinite Light. The multi-city show is being presented by four galleries that the artist has worked with closely in his career—Art Alive, Delhi, Art Musings in Mumbai, Kolkata-based CIMA and Gallery Sumukha in Bengaluru. The exhibition, which has started in Delhi, shall progress to the remaining three metros in the course of the next couple of months, embarking on its final leg in Bengaluru on 4 February, 2023.

The shows span a time frame from the 1990’s to his most recent creations, each one bearing his strength in diverse mediums. “This exhibition maps his investment in painting, drawing, sculpture and installation, as well as his quiet and lifelong preoccupation with ceramics. In each of these forms, Maity translates into aesthetic propositions his memories of landscape and riverscape, the sensations he has absorbed during his journeys across India and the world, and his ceaseless excitement in the face of the world’s changing moods and seasons,” states curatorial advisor Ranjit Hoskote.

There are nearly 450 works on display across the four metros, with newer works being added in each city. In Delhi, large-scale watercolours, mixed media and ceramics—the latter have never been shown to the public— were on view at the Bikaner House, while sculptures and installations are currently displayed at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre. As one walked through Bikaner House show, organised by Art Alive, sketches of boats, of the ghats of Varanasi with their chhatris, hanging from the roof, act as visual connectors between the floors. One could see an early watercolour of Venice, a city that has served as his muse time and again. He first visited the city in the 1990s, and has since then been there 27 times. Over time, he has come to understand why every artist, interested in creating ‘romanticism in art’, has travelled to Venice at some point in their career. Each time, he sees the city in a new light, leading to a new expression in his artwork.

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Twilight is his favourite time of the day in any city, be it Venice or Varanasi, when he can capture the vivid light and colour. “That’s why I paint only during the day. I never paint after sunset. I want to be able to identify the colours properly. There are many many kinds of reds and blues. To retain the vibrancy of those colours is very important,” says Maity. It is no wonder then that the title of the show is Infinite Light. He explains that right from childhood, he realised that light is life. And right from the time he decided to embark on a journey in art, he has experimented with light and shadow.

Paresh Maity paints only during the day and never after sunset
Paresh Maity paints only during the day and never after sunset

As one took in the works at both Bikaner House and Visual Arts Gallery, you could see certain other threads emerge in the artist’s works—the motifs of stairs, cycles, and boats, and a sense of animation and movement. Take, for instance, an abstract sculpture that Maity likes to call ‘Hero’, which features a pendulum, a metaphor for the vagaries of fate. At the India Habitat Centre, one sees Maity’s use of the circle in several sculptures, representing the cyclical nature of life.

In the Bikaner House, on the top floor, a 45-feet-wide painting was on display. It showed in great detail the sunrise and morning aarti on the ghats of Varanasi. Maity has been visiting the city for the past 37 years, and every time the city, with its river of fate, continues to exercise its hold on him. “I can see the clothes floating, and I have tried to create that texture and effect in my work,” he says.

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It is Maity’s unique language, which brings together abstraction and realism, that makes him such a collector’s delight. However, the commerce of art is far from Maity’s mind. It is spirituality that drives his art. “In life, while we try to capture what we see, we also keep changing our way of seeing changes. The way I looked at a landscape 30 years ago is not what I see now. A foundation of minimalist moods has entered my approach, it dictates what I translate onto the canvas or the paper,” he says. “My journey has led me, not only to the discovery of the chiaroscuro of light and shade, but also to an inner tranquility, a quiet glow which I hope will act as a beacon of light to guide me on my journey in the years to come.”

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